Sunday, December 21, 2008

Prefiguring 9/11 in movies and on TV...

Back when I was a TVGuide.com, some three iterations before the current site, we did a prominently placed news item about the pilot of X-Files spin off The Lone Gunmen. We posted it some six months after the pilot aired and a good two months after it was canceled.

The pilot debuted on March 4, 2001, and the last aired June 1st — apparently viewers just weren't getting with eccentric sidekicks steeped in conspiracy theories. But after 9/11 that first episode, which revolved around a plot to fly a commercial airliner into one of the World Trade Center towers, took on a whole new significance.



Flash forward to December 2008. It's late, I'm half-watching an episode of the old UPN sci-fi series Seven Days (which ran from October 1998 to October 2000) and suddenly I'm seeing smoke pouring from a ruined segment of the Pentagon. Eek.

The episode, "Pinball Wizard," first aired on October 6, 1999, and involves a disgruntled super-programmer who decides to show the US government just how big a mistake it made when it rejected his anti-terrorist defense system. If there's a clip online, I couldn't find it. The episode itself is pretty clichéd stuff, but I don't remember anyone ever pointing out how disturbing the Pentagon footage looks in retrospect.The military's much-derided post 9/11 decision to invite Hollywood filmmakers to meet with representatives of army intelligence and discuss terrorist scenarios seems more reasonable with every passing day.

And now for a bizarre coincidence. A couple of years ago I watched the 1975 thriller The Human Factor, in which programmer John Kinsdale (George Kennedy), who's in Naples tweaking a supercomputer designed to run war-game simulations for NATO, loses his family to political terrorists and takes bloody revenge. It's standard-issue Euro-thriller stuff, even if it was directed by late great Edward Dmytryck (Crossfire, Murder, My Sweet, The Sniper, The Caine Mutiny), except for the name of the computer: 911.

3 comments:

Oskar said...

I experienced something similar in the days around 9/11, involving Alan Moore's Watchmen. As everyone who's read it knows, there's quite a big "event" happening in New York at the very end, and we get to hear news-casts of leaders from all over the world giving support for New Yorkers.

I had finished it for the first time literally days before 9/11. It was astonishing. You could lift quotes directly from the comic and put them in the mouths of the world leaders from the news. It was as if reality had suddenly jumped out from the pages of the comic book.

Another thing that made it all the more unsettling is that in the comic, the event is in fact part of one big hoax. That had my mind spinning for a few days. I mean, if it got everything else right (that is, if you substitute aliens for Al-Qaeda), why shouldn't that part be true?

Luckily, I got over that particular delusion pretty fast. Unfortunately, many other people didn't. I've always suspected that many of those 9/11 "Truthers" are in fact just Alan Moore-fans with much too active imaginations.

miss flickchick said...

You know, I'd forgotten all about that and you're right. Eerie.

And speaking of Watchmen, I can't believe that Warner Bros. and Fox still haven't settled the rights-related lawsuit that threatens to keep the film out of theaters.

The case is actually going to court in January, and let's hope the wheels of justice grind less slowly than usual, because the film had a March 2009 release date.

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